And the winner is … squashThe votes have been tallied and the results are in. Squash, following in the footsteps of kale and beets, is the 2013 Vegetable of the Year, the Duluth Community Garden Program (DCGP) recently announced.
The votes have been tallied and the results are in. Squash, following in the footsteps of kale and beets, is the 2013 Vegetable of the Year, the Duluth Community Garden Program (DCGP) recently announced.
“We had a pretty good debate at the beet potluck in October,” said squash ambassador Michael Gabler. “A lot of different vegetables were advocated for. There was a strong lettuce contingent, as well as peas.”
But in the end, community garden members and a selection committee went with the soft-shelled member of the gourd family.
“The criteria is that is has to be easy to grow in the area, the seeds have to be easy to pass out and it has to be exceptionally healthy,” DCPG coordinator Jahn Hibbs said of the selection process.
Squash fit the bill, although it will bring about some new challenges.
“The one drawback, as opposed to beets and kale, is that with squash, you’ve got to get it into the ground the first 10 days of June,” said Gabler, who heads up the One Vegetable, One Community program. “That’s our challenge this year, to make sure people know that’s the time to get squash into the ground.”
Squash needs to grow under warm conditions. Planting seeds too early will cause them to rot; planting too late will lead to frost damage.
Although the growing season is short, squash has a long shelf life. Its outer shell is soft, yet thick, and preserves the contents. Squash pulled off the vine in the fall can last around six months if stored at cool temperatures.
Squash was also selected for its nutritious value. It is high in vitamins A and C, as well as minerals. Additionally, the seeds are a source of protein.
“People just love taste of squash, too,” Gabler said. “It can be put into breads, eaten by itself, and it’s wonderful in soups.”
The garden program will distribute free squash seeds around Duluth beginning in March. Seeds will be available at the DCPG office, all three Duluth Public Library branches and the Duluth Grill.
Numerous events are planned throughout the year to highlight the vegetable. The signature event is an annual potluck, which features dozens of dishes featuring the vegetable of choice each year. That event will take place on National Food Day, Oct. 24.
As in past years, Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth will also host cooking demonstrations and competitions throughout the summer.
One of the program’s goals is to provide a common experience that everybody in the community can share.
“An important part is to taste new things and learn new ways to prepare it,” Hibbs said. “Food is a unifying thing of ages and races.”
The One Vegetable, One Community program was established three years ago to encourage Duluthians to make vegetables a mainstay in their diets.
“We’ve grown accustomed to eating fast food that isn’t most nutritious, but the solution is so simple: we can grow our own food,” Gabler said. “We started the conversation a few years ago about how to make vegetables more accessible. It’s too daunting to look at everything at once, so we focus on one vegetable at a time.”
If Gabler’s plans succeed, everybody will have a garden full of vegetables pretty soon.
“We thought by taking it one at a time, and giving people the skills to grow it and the recipes to prepare it, it would make it more manageable,” he said. “If everyone grows one vegetable a year, we’ll all have a garden full of tasty, nutritious vegetables.”